Clear

"The Kingdom.  The garden.  The everlasting promises of God and the glory of eternity.  They are at hand.  I need to look no further than the beauty that lays beside me in my bed.  She is as she always was.  As she was always intended to be.  She is the very hope and promise of God’s great love for me.  She is glorious and I am undone."

That passage is from "Intoxicated", a blog I wrote a couple of year's ago.  It was true at the time and still is very much the way I feel about her...most of the time.  The reality, however, is that sometimes I just don't.  I could give you dozens of reasons why, but at the end of the day there is only one.  Our enemy is set against our marriage.  The desire for one another, that God set in both my wife and I, is constantly assaulted.  Rather than "intoxicated" by one another, I think we both sometimes feel discouraged, frustrated, and even a little pissed off.

Last weekend, I got to spend some time with one of the really good Kings of the Kingdom.  A man who has been blessed by much and clearly offers all that he has been gifted with for the sake of others in his realm.  Like all good Kings, the burden of his stewardship can sometimes be overwhelming.  He is sometimes frustrated by his beloved as well.  We commiserated a bit and then started to zero in on the particular point of his frustration.  And then the Father began to speak.

I am a different man from what transpired.  The Father joined us, spoke clearly, and revealed a different path to life and leading that was previously unseen to me.  He said:

  • clarify all the unclean motives burdening your love and leadership of others
  • leave all but the most noble and clean on the threshing room floor
  • forgive and release any unresolved issues hardening your heart toward them
  • with the rare and clear eyes of forgiveness, see them as I see them
  • intercede for them
  • receive the essential things they need to know about how I love them, think of them, and desire for them to know about who they are
  • speak to them on My behalf

My heart for everyone else in my realm has changed since that conversation.

I desire to see everyone with His eyes.

I want to love them with His good heart for them.

I want to intercede and know them as He does.

And then I want to speak that excavating and healing truth.

Yesterday was a very busy day.  I desperately wanted to do this for all the precious ones in my life.  I ended up working part of the day, had a celebratory lunch with our team at the office, ran valentine's errands for the five beauties in my home, celebrated a birthday, had a date with my wife, and entertained four houseguests visiting from across the country.  I got to everything other than the one thing.  Imagine that.

But I did made it to a stationary store and before the weekend is out, I will:

  • forgive
  • intercede
  • offer healing truth that was both unknown to me and desperately needed by them

I pray you will be inspired to do the same.

Holy

“All that is gold does not glitter,Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.”

Tolkien

Back from four days with a couple of dozen great heroes of the faith.  They may not be on the tips of the culture's tongue but they are being celebrated wildly in heaven.  When asked last night about the weekend by some new friends at a house church we are part of, this is what our Father gave me to say:

  • I sat shoulder to shoulder with great Warriors forcibly advancing the Kingdom.
  • Great men reclaiming the lost territories of their families, communities, and lives.
  • Warmed myself by the fire of battles fought, both won and lost, by the young Warriors, good Kings, and seasoned Sages of the faith.
  • It was holy and I am undone from the experience.  God's glory was so profoundly evident that I could scarcely take it all in.
  • We got to experience the "thin place" of the Celtic Christians where heaven and earth briefly meet.

This morning, I may be sitting in a Starbucks, but worship music from the weekend is blaring in my ears, my heart is full, and I am steadfastly resisting all the Matrix is throwing at me.  Like the hobbits returning to the shire, transformed by the battles fought and adventures lived, I am now an alien in my own land.

I claim the "thin place" as my home.

The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

I will never be the same.

"Brother sisters join this song As we journey home Brother sisters join this song As we journey home

Hold my hand and walk with me Till my pilgrim days are done And there I’ll find this jubilee Until my chains you’ll see undone

I walk towards eternity With hands held high Unashamed I will enter in With love on my side

Hold my hand and walk with me Till my pilgrim days are done And there I’ll find this jubilee Until my chains You’ll see undone

I walk this path you lead and You keep moving me on I know You’re with me Lord in Zion

To Him who sits on the throne To Him who reigns forever To Him who sits on the throne To Him who reigns forever

Blessing and honor and glory and power"

Will Reagan "Pilgrim Days"

 

Story

“That’s what storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again.”   Walt Disney I went to a writing conference a few months ago.  I had been really looking forward to it.  After writing a couple of hundred thinly read blogs and enjoying some speaking opportunities, a few folks intimated that somewhere inside me there was a leadership-purpose-masculine-identity-headship-etc. type book emerging.

That marked the beginning of  an incredibly assaulted time that I still haven't recovered from in some ways.  (If you start to get clarity of some of what God created you to do, get ready for the warfare.)  I attended that writing conference with a friend of mine who works on our business's branding and radio messaging.  My buddy is a successful published Christian author who shares a similar missional heart to men.  At the conference, we were required to do some creative writing to help with our ad writing.

At one point, almost as an aside, one of the leaders of the event said to me, "You're not a really a writer.  You are more of a storyteller.".  I first received it as an indictment of my ability to write in any capacity.  I commented to my author friend on what the leader had said.  My friend not only affirmed the comment, but said it was an incredible gift to be able to tell stories well.  He said that there are authors all over the place, but to be able to tell a story that encourages, inspires, or challenges another it is a real and rare gift.

My mind instantly went to several other experiences, the most prominent being a celebratory dinner with the Chairman of the bank where I worked for 16 years.  He and his wife took me and my wife to dinner.   As we were talking and I mentioned our six children.  He turned to me with this wide-eyed childlike enthusiasm and gesturing to his wife said, "Tell her one of your stories.  He tells great stories.".  I feel like God used that conversation and many subsequent ones to affirm some of my unique calling and gifting, and to solidify something that our enemy would love to steal, kill, and destroy.

Watching Walt Disney woo the heart of P.L. Travers in "Saving Mr. Banks", I was also reminded of the power of storytelling.  The movie is an extraordinary tale of the power of wounding, rescue, and redemption.  It is the temporal echoing the eternal.  Walt essentially rewrites the ending of a woman's tragic story and brings healing to her 50 year broken heart.  "Behold, I make all things new."

My favorite movie list every year is the one from Christianity Today.  Early last year they released their "Most Redeeming Films of 2012".  They'll do the same in a month or so for 2013.  I can guarantee you "Saving Mr. Banks" will be on it.  They don't list movies the typical way all the "best of" lists do.  They offer the 10 (or so) films that most beautifully portray the ransom, rescue, and redemption story we all enjoy as Christians.

Grab your wife (not really one for the kids) and go be uplifted, inspired, and feel the full weight of Jesus' Isaiah 61 ransom and rescue.  Allow yourself to be reminded, through the power of good storytelling,  there is ultimately only one great story worth telling.

"Saving Mr. Banks" trailer

Arise

Biker sunrise"If you do not cut the mooring, God will have to break them by a storm and send you out.  Launch all on God, go out on the great swelling tide of His purpose, and you will get your eyes open."  Oswald Chambers A guy who works for me as a salesman has attended a couple of our boot camps and brought several of his mates to the last one.  He is a good man, an avid mountain biker, and a great father to his two girls.  In the course of selling windows, siding, and doors, his heart got awakened to the great need of some of the prospects he encountered.  He:

  • took the time the hear their stories
  • got deeply stirred to help change their circumstances
  • assembled volunteer teams to materially impact their homes and lives
  • partnered with his church to broaden the scope of work
  • institutionalized Love/Serve First projects on a monthly rotation

The first significant encounter involved doing some yard work of a frightened and broken women who had been abandoned by her husband's Alzheimers.  The women said she had prayed that God would send someone and surely this was the one.  Ironic that this messenger of God came in the form of an exterior home replacement contractor salesman.

His church literally shuts down on the first Sunday of every month and encourages every member to "serve first"  through an arranged series of opportunities.  It is the culture and mission of the fellowship.  As radical and unconventional as actually being the Church once a month, instead of merely doing church every week is...

...it wasn't enough for this man.

He started a church expression that meets apart from his normal church three sundays a month.  He and several other men and their families:

  • Meet at the home of a mission project
  • Stream the sermon from his home church on his laptop
  • They arrange activities for the kids including their own role in the work
  • Spend the day working on the home
  • break bread with the family

On the fourth Sunday they join the rest of the congregation for the normal sunday expression.  His passion around what he is doing is inspiring others to join him on the journey.  There is a lot of energy, support, and attention for what he is doing.

Shockingly, his pastors are actually incredibly encouraged by what he is doing.  Not threatened at all.  They see it as the manifestation, at the highest level, of the life they are encouraging all their congregants to live out.

This guy is breathlessly invigorated.

He is resolved and fully alive.

But he is also, as you might imagine, incredibly assaulted.

You want an easy (but stagnant and boring) life?  Get in line, shut up, do the drill, and just don't cause any trouble.

You want a chip in the big game?  Stand up, take you place, exit the Matrix, enter into purpose, and become a change agent.

You want to usher in the glorious mantle of image bearer of a most high God, co-heir of a Kingdom work, and invite others into that story...you better put your "big boy" pants on.  You are now dangerous for good and you will be inviting our enemy to come at you with both barrels blazing.

But, what the hell, it is the bleeding that reminds you that you are really alive.

 

Arena

ARENA“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt I spent part of my Father’s Day at a friend’s retirement party. To be totally honest, I was a little ticked to leave my lair and five of my six children. We had a great family lunch, the U.S. Open was on the tube, seasoned surf and turf were awaiting the grill, and game five of the NBA finals would be the capstone.  We made an appearance because I couldn't miss my friend's big day.   I am honored to know him as friend and ally.

He had representation from most of the significant arenas of his personal and professional life:

  • Wife and three boys
  • Professional comrades
  • Not for profit friends
  • Brothers from SummitTrek Executive board (Christian business roundtable)

The complement of celebrants across several decades speaks to the significant investment he has made in others. He is obviously a man who has spent considerable time pouring in the lives and successes of many. That is the epitome of being a “good king”…one who uses his gifts, talents, and resources for the sake of elevating others.

Most with the privilege of his generous and well-earned retirement are almost excusably focused on how to make the ensuing decades more comfortable for themselves. This man has a decidedly different focus.  I had the privilege of being one of those on the other end of the phone as he wrestled with the decision to leave all the trappings of the world's success for a determinably purposed path.

The reason for his success and the drivers behind the decision were on display for all to see. He took the opportunity of addressing 75-100 family, friends, and business associates to:

  • Acknowledge the movement of God through his journey
  • Honor the men and organizations that have shaped him
  • Challenged all others to find a life worth living…the beautiful collision of the world’s great need and your unique ability

He has been the man “in the arena” who has “spent himself in a worthy cause”. He has lived a life of significant impact. He has not yet known, however, the greatest season of his significance. A greater arena awaits.

Well done.

King

crown"I will tell His Majesty what a king is. A king does not abide within his tent while his men bleed and die upon the field. A king does not dine while his men go hungry, nor sleep when they stand at watch upon the wall. A king does not command his men's loyalty through fear nor purchase it with gold; he earns their love by the sweat of his own back and the pains he endures for their sake. That which compromises the harshest burden, a king lifts first and sets down last. A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them. He serves them, not they him." (Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, p. 360)

Mmmmmhhhh.  How good is that?  Pressfield is a brilliant writer who I often quote here.  Read this description of his "Gates of Fire" from Amazon:

"At Thermopylae, a rocky mountain pass in northern Greece, the feared and admired Spartan soldiers stood three hundred strong. Theirs was a suicide mission, to hold the pass against the invading millions of the mighty Persian army.

Day after bloody day they withstood the terrible onslaught, buying time for the Greeks to rally their forces. Born into a cult of spiritual courage, physical endurance, and unmatched battle skill, the Spartans would be remembered for the greatest military stand in history--one that would not end until the rocks were awash with blood, leaving only one gravely injured Spartan squire to tell the tale...."

The battle is immortalized in the 2006 highly stylized film "300":

300 Trailer

An author I love says,

"We have a whole army warehoused in churches, led by bad kings that are afraid to go to war."

At the most foundational level, the Alamo Band of Brothers, are trying to:

  • Awaken a generation of good kings that are ransomed, restored, alive, free, and ready to go to war.
  • Arm and ready men to fight for their children, their churches, their communities, their beauties, and their one true King.
  • Enlist a company to rescue and restore everything and everyone in the realm God has given them to rule.
  • Help men steward smaller kingdoms on earth that unapologetically point to the one Kingdom beyond.

Will you join us?

 

 

Giant

divine conspiracy"This is a call for us to reconsider how we have been approaching our life, in light of the fact that we now, in the presence of Jesus, have the option of living within the surrounding movements of God’s eternal purposes, of taking our life into his life."  Dallas Williard

We lost a giant yesterday.  Ironically, it would have really pissed him off to be referred to as a "giant" or any other title that would have implied he was different than the rest of us.  He was far more interested in bringing the Kingdom to others than appointing himself king of one...inviting others into their kingship under their King.  In that regard, he stands almost unchallenged among many of the contemporary leaders of his day.

He paced his life to allow extensive time for authentic relationships with other men and his God.  Deep and slow moving water can carve mountains, but can almost be overlooked by the casual observer.  I feel clumsy and inadequate even attempting to write about this man.  More thick of tongue like Moses than the communicator Aaron, I feel like God has called me to be.

At a time when marriage and my very faith was failing, his masterpiece, "The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God", saved me.  My legalistic and judgmental brand of Christianity was collapsing into itself...the deep insecurity that it intended to mask was no longer fooling anyone and was most painfully obvious to the man looking in the mirror.  My leadership of the realm I had been granted was most characterized by control and self-protection.  I hated myself, my life, and could not understand why my strict adherence to law, tip, and technique wasn't bringing any peace.

Worse, my wife was miserable and conflicted as well.  How could she be anything but?  Dallas cut through the lies of our enemy that would pin us down with the exhaustive mandate of sin management as our only measure.  He removed the blinders that purported rest and reward only in eternity, while the glory of His intended Kingdom in the here and now, was left unclaimed.

With unveiled eyes, I next found, "The Rest of the Gospel: When the Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out" by Stone and Smith.  Most powerfully, they reminded me that Romans 3:23 was followed by a comma and that Jesus was the antidote in 3:24...the One who turned the tables on 3:23.  That, followed by an awakening of my masculine identity, authentic headship, leadership, and governance through Eldredge's writing, has determined a progressively different path for every step since.

My understanding of the Father, the opportunity for authentic relationship with him, making room for others in my life and heart, the understanding of the Kingdom of heaven being at hand...exploding all around me...can all be sourced to him.  I often say that I am an inverse Abraham, a son of many fathers (Dr. Willard was certainly one of those).

Willard said, "I think that, when I die, it might be some time until I know it.".  He lived a Kingdom life in the here and now and inspired others to it.  Eternity is just a simple continuation of the life he has always known.  He is not dead, he is simply more alive.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/may-web-only/man-from-another-time-zone.html

 

 

Resistance

compass"Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance (the enemy) will unfailingly point to true North - meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.

We can use this.  We can use it as a compass.  We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it."  Steven Pressfield

My quick and clear response to the above is, "Duh!".  Of course, that is the case.  Of course this is the way it works.  Intellectually, I totally get it, agree with it, and believe it to be true.  The problem is that I largely operate without the practical assignment of the enemy's role in opposing my call on a day-to-day basis.

I know that I was put here to help other men determine their place in the larger story of God and use my unique gifting and ability to encourage, inspire, challenge, and support their living there as much as possible.  The clearer that gets and the more I understand how I am to practically do that very thing, the stronger the opposition thrown against it.

So if is true that only real thing of value, God's unique intention for you in your creation, can be determined by where you find the most opposition in your life, then the inverse must be true as well.

"So if you're in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you're thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing...relax.  Resistance will give you a free pass."  Pressfield.

The enemy would love you take up a hobby of micro-brewing, get invested in an extensive television series, get a really good porch swing, or start a Hummel collection.  Why would he oppose any of that?  He wouldn't.  He loves it when we find anything any form of preoccupation that keeps us from offering what we were uniquely created to give.  If life is truly found in living into your calling, anything that distracts from that is welcomed and encouraged.

Truth is that I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the worthless and insignificant.  My heart aches for more and not finding it is the source of nearly every frustration in my life (that I readily assign to other things).  Because when I am cutting through the water, not just being carried by the current, but rowing briskly down stream, life gets real clear.

 

Remember

"You are Dia Vendy, of the proud Mende tribe. You are a good boy who loves soccer and school. Your mother loves you so much. She waits by the fire making plantains, and red palm oil stew with your sister N'Yanda and the new baby. The cows wait for you. And Babu, the wild dog who minds no one but you. I know they made you do bad things, but you are not a bad boy. I am your father who loves you. And you will come home with me and be my son again."  Solomon to his son Dia in "Blood Diamond" Dia is kidnapped by mercenaries, robbed of his innocence, stripped of his identity.  A chance meeting with his father gives him the chance to remember.

The identity of our precious ones are constantly assaulted.  The world tells them lies and an enemy stands ready to pin them down with identity formed from the most untrue things about them.  Women are especially assaulted.  The battle for the hearts of my wife and four daughters is constant, overwhelming, and insidious.  I wonder sometimes if that is why they seem to require so much sleep...must be hard to just get out of bed in the morning.

When my two eldest girls were little I used to pack their lunches the week of Valentine's Day.  I made them triple decker peanut butter, chocolate chip, and marshmallow, heart shaped sandwiches.  I gave them candy.  I wrote little notes about my deep heart for them and stuffed it all in a simple brown paper bag.  One time, some mom's harassed me at the softball fields...their little ones had chided them to do the same because of my daughter's bounty.

My eldest is a million miles from little girl packed lunches.  She is teaching her bebes (little Spanish kids) English as a second language in Mijas, Spain.  She feels beyond a reach that seems to be slipping with each passing year.  The thousands of miles between here and Spain only serve to exacerbate the feeling.

At the last boot camp, God reminded me of how my adult daughter still needed to hear her father speak identity into her life.  She still needed sweet notes, special treats, and carefully prepared meals.  He inspired a way to remind her, thousands of miles away, how special she is and how much she is loved.

My wife and I wired money to her roommate.  We asked that she get gift certificates to her favorite coffee shop, restaurant, and chocolatier.  That she buy the purse she passed up, the candied almonds from the street vendor, and the flowers from the lady in the center of town on Saturdays.  We asked her to give her a gift per day and put notes from her mom and I in an envelope that we e-mailed and she printed.

God told me to remind her of what is particular and special about her.  Each day was something different...something in the way she uniquely bears the image of God...her beauty, kindness, thoughtfulness, grace, humor, and discernment.  Every morning at 1 AM our time, she was supposed to get a different gift and pair of notes.  I desperately wanted to know if she got them and how she felt, but I didn't dare call.

On day six, I got an e-mail.  She said that she has the fondest memories of her Valentine's days as a girl.  She said that while the rest of her friends obsessed about having boyfriends, she never did because she felt so loved and pursued.  She said that her standard for how she is loved, honored, and cared has been established and will not be compromised.  She said that all her friends were taking notice and doing the same.

She knows she is loved.  She knows she is beautiful.  She knows some of the unique ways she bears the image of God.

I am called to be a bestower of identity on my precious ones.  An enemy constantly assaults me with a sense that I am done, it is too late, and my work is done.  It is a lie.  I reject it.  I will spend all my days reminding my precious ones what God has uniquely created in them.

IMG_1122

 

Battle

“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life's preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime. That is why the true warrior cannot speak of battle save to his brothers who have been there with him. The truth is too holy, too sacred, for words." - Steven Pressfield I made a vow ten years ago.  With new understanding of His love and my true identity, I knew something needed to change.  I swore from that day that I would never walk alone again.  That reality has changed everything.  It hasn't been easy and has been very much opposed, but to fight the battle for other men and my own heart within a sacred fellowship has made all the difference.

The most stirring moment at every boot camp is to watch 50 men spread out across a camp...a battlefield...with journal in hand, ready to hear from their true Father, maybe for the first time in their lives.  Just to know that they will hear the precious things a father has for his son...things they desperately need to know, but have long since quit believing could be true...stirs me like nothing else.  It is the doorway to freedom.

For a man to hear the sweet whisper of a father's love and intentions, unfamiliar but resonating in some unknown way at the deepest part of a man...the level of the heart...What could be better than that?

  • I stumbled around on my own.
  • I clumsily tried to rope up with others.
  • I almost lost hope on believing it was possible.
  • And then...

Chance meeting became divine appointment.  Divine appointment brought fellowship and shared missional heart.  Communicated mission rallied others to the fight.  What seemed circumstantial and effortless, I now know was God breathed and intended.  It doesn't always meet my grandest expectations and is sometimes very hard, but it is worth every inconvenience  and is a non-negotiable in my life.

When I think about journey, battles fought, and victories won, I can't think of it outside the context of a brotherhood.

I don't know that I could continue the journey.

I don't know if I would have the courage for the fight.

I know the victory wouldn't be so sweet.

I have a new vow.  I will continue to fight for the hearts of other men 'til my last breath.  I will answer the bell for the next round, flanked by men who know me, love me, and have the best of intentions for me.  I will mourn the losses and celebrate the victories won, within a sacred fellowship.  I am not alone and despite what my enemy whispers out of my wound, I will not be abandoned.

I cannot speak of battle save to my brothers who have been there with me. The truth is too holy, too sacred, for words.

 

 

Radiance

She couldn't have been any clearer about the decision.  Our Father's validation of the choice had been the result of prayer, vetting in practical ways, and uncompromising affirmation at every turn.  She was inspired and convicted and so were we. She was breaking rank out of a culture where you don't break rank in the manner she was doing so.  She was stepping out of the line that virtually every person she knew was standing in.  That was their story, this was clearly hers.  The initial response to most ranged from uncertainty to outright concern.

A woman of beauty and grace.  A thoughtful and gentle soul.  She rarely felt the need to make much noise about her life or decisions.  But on one fateful day, she spoke.  When challenged by a couple of new acquaintances about her life, she effusively explained the path and plan of her going to Spain in place of a freshman year in college.  The women were overwhelmed by her proclamation and said she was glowing and that God's intentions and joy were "radiating" from her face.

On this day, within only a few days of departure, the hammer fell.  Our enemy hates God's glory and despises our expression of that (as image bearers of such).  For the first time, in the almost year-long journey to the decision, she doubted.  She questioned herself, God's intentions, and the role my wife and I played in coming to this decision.  As quick as a whisper, all the glory, inspiration, and validation was robbed.

She was sad and unsure and I was heartbroken and conflicted.  Everything in me wanted to call the whole thing off.  Hold my precious one close and keep her from all that she feared.  Shouldn't I rescue this beauty?

God's answer was clear, quick, and uncompromising...you don't keep her from adventure, glory, and purpose...you help her fight through fear to find it.  I am to hack away the jungle, machete at hand, of all my control, our fear, and the misdirection of the enemy...help clear her path...to glory.

We fervently prayed that:

  • God would provide waves of deep and penetrating confirmation of His intentions in her.
  • He would come alongside here in tangible ways in the adventure He had called her to.
  • It would be unmistakable to her and everyone who witnessed her journey.
  • Transformation she is finding would call others to transformation.
  • She will forever steadfastly refuse to be tempted by any "less wild lovers" the world throws at her.

The photo she Instagram'd on her first day of class (teaching Spanish children English as a second language at a missional academy in Mijas) revealed overwhelming answer to all our prayers.  I was reminded of Moses...her face in the photo almost needed to be shrouded.  The reaction and affirmations out of that glory revealed, were overwhelming.  God was speaking and it was impossible to ignore.

One friend, a freshman in college in Oklahoma, said, "Wanna trade places?".  Give up glory, purpose, and getting clarity around her place in the larger story of God?  Not a chance.  May I have the courage to do the same.

 

 

Thing

On September 30, 2001, my son and I joined about 5 other people in an uncrowded movie theatre for the opening night of "Extreme Days".  The movie was a mix of off-beat comedy, extreme sports, and some of the edgier faith based music of the day...wrapped in a buddy film about a grand adventure up the Pacific coast.  Their vehicle of choice was a "Joyota", a "jeep body with a refurbished Toyota engine" as they referred to it.  Actually, their rig was a 1973 Volkswagen "Thing", but they seemed to be as clueless about that as most other things.  

We've gone through a couple of personal DVD copies, given away numerous more to family & friends, and it is still one of our family favorite films.  It carries some of the cheese that an 11-year old film of its' genre should contain, as you might imagine, but it has become an iconic part of our story.  The largest lasting impact has to do with their ride.  As ugly and unorthodox as a Thing convertible is, the older kids have always jonesed for one.

As fate might have it, the CEO of the bank I used to work at had a canary yellow version that he kept in the parking garage.  It was jointly owned and thinly used on trips to the beach.  I asked about it several times, but was reassured that his family would never let him part with it.  A couple of weeks ago, however, he called to let me know he was ready to sell.  The prospect left me in quite a dilemma.

Every practical bone in my logical body (and there are many) said it was an ignorant decision, but I couldn't shake the picture of my two beautiful blonde daughters rolling with the top down in that canary yellow convertible.  We have worked hard to fabricate a larger and unique story for them to live in and this ride clearly fit the bill.  I felt Him fathering me through the process and I was deeply stirred to the impractical.  I worked up my offer, but before I was able to give the CEO a call, his name showed up on my phone.

He said he had some bad news for me.  He is a strong and determined, but gracious and kind man.  I got to work with him closely during my tenure at the bank and considered him a strong ally and friend.  He said that even though the dealer was going to offer him little as a trade-in on the car, he said he just couldn't sell it to me.  The Thing is rough...poor exterior protection and suspension, challenging and not too comfortable to drive, with no airbags or other safety features.  He said he was up wrestling with it the night before and said he just didn't feel comfortable knowing my two teenage girls would be driving it around.  He couldn't sell it to me.

While I lost the Thing, I am different from the journey.  I chose life and adventure over the tried and true path (the way I have lived most of my life) and it was very good.  Each step toward a larger story for me and my family seems to get easier.  Kind of like losing the battle, but winning the war.

Pearls

"All my life is an answer to the invitation To be a part of the conversation

Living in a bigger story

All this time is history-in-the-making

Always headed for a destination

To take my place in the bigger story

I'm taking my place in the bigger story"

Christine Dente

 

This is the heart cry of every man.  When I sit around the great table one day in the later on, what sort of tale will they tell about me?  Will it will be full of danger, risk, and adventure?  Will it be disruptive to the less wild story of others?  Will it be the sort that beckons others to a different life?

Every man carries a secret fear...that God didn't mean something when He meant him.  That the adventurous tales of old are not for him...the whole exceptions and not examples thing.  The invitation has been made, however, to be part of a larger conversation, to take our place in a bigger story.  To choose (and "choose" is the operative word) to live a less significant life is to deny the sacrifice paid for us to have such.  It is the submission to the static, tired, and sad, when glory awaits.

I have given away over 4 dozen copies of Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years".  To me, it is some of my pearls of great price...it is a collection of stories about choosing to live in the larger story.  It is the unmistakable and audacious declaration of choosing to live into significance.  It beautifully illustrates that this kind of life defies circumstance, income, or vocation.  It is simply a choice.

I give those books because I believe it contains the answer and explores the mechanism to address that secret desire deep within the heart of every man.  When you submit your life to that kind of story, when you choose to make that one big decision, it seems that all others start to comfortably domino behind.  "Million Miles" doesn't slap you in the face with imperative but woos you with stories of others choosing significance.  That is what a holy adventure does...it romances the viewer toward finding significance in their own story.

"We Bought a Zoo" is a similar story in film.  It is more of my pearls.  Upon casual observance, it is a nice story about a widower buying a zoo with his kids, but there is something far greater going on here.  It is the story of a man choosing a bigger story for his family in the hopes of it changing their future...for the rescue and ransom of their lives.  The shackles shake loose and freedom is found.  It is the contemporaneous that echoes the eternal.  It is The Story revealing itself in our story.  Maybe that is why I am overcome with emotion watching that movie.  Maybe it is why the soundtrack to that movie (I am listening to at this moment) does the same.

While my heart's desire is to live in a bigger story, the purpose of my life is to help others find the same.  My heart cry is that so few do.  The problem with pearls, you see, is some are captivated by their beauty, while others simply trample them.

Castrate

"We castrate the gelding and then bid him be fruitful."  C.S. Lewis To castrate means to literally hack of the balls of a male.  I feel a little queasy at just the thought of it.  It is common practice in the horse world, but has seen serious momentum among humans over the last 40-50 years.  I mean, we don't actually separate a man from his nut sack, but we might as well.  To pervasively tell him that:

  • he is no different than a woman
  • he is unnecessary in the family dynamic
  • that he needs to get more in touch with his feminine side

I'm surprised we're not all lactating about now.  Instead of elevating all that is glorious, mysterious, and beautiful about women (see my post about my wife, "Intoxicated"), they simply sought to dismantle our masculine identity while replacing theirs that resembled something more like ours.  It sounds ludicrous and preposterous as I write it, but it is the predominant world view that most of our lives have operated under.

The battlefield is strewn with angry, pissed-off women that can't become the men the world has told them they should be, and castrated men who feel out of place and de-toothed in the gender-neutral equality of our time.  Is it no wonder their is so much sexual ambiguity, marital discord, and relational collateral damage of all kinds.  Nobody has any clarity around who God created them to be!  Easy for me to point my finger at all that...all the ills of society reeking all the damage in ways I don't like.

Interesting how it isn't all their fault.  The sadder reality is that wounded men wound others...inexplicably and without intention possibly, but they would others.  That is certainly my story.  Out of a broken and confusing home life as a child, I intentioned the perfect Christian family and the perfect children.  I loved my wife and kids, but their behavior, appearance, and holiness was the basis of my identity.

I didn't just want them to look and act a certain way, my very life depended on it.  I desperately fought to preserve they way I thought things should look; my marriage almost failed and we're still dealing with the collateral damage in the lives of our kids due to my fathering.  The most discernible impact was born on our incredibly gifted, but dutiful son.  He got the worst of it.

He recently blogged, "For the Love of the Game" from Spain about beginning to believe in himself.  Starting to trust all that God put in him and is grabbing the mantle of leadership God so graciously placed over his life.

http://knoxschroller.blogspot.com/

The great Restorer of the broken hearted has come to heal and set free.  The Father is mending the broken places from the father.

I sat at our younger son's little league game yesterday and wept as I read his post.  I love to see the full weight of Jesus' Isaiah 61 ministry manifest in the life of a man...helping him find freedom and healing for all the broken places  But when it is your son and the broken places are partially the work of your hands, it is something altogether.  It holds the promise that healed men can help bring healing to other men.

Downton

My daughters are captivated by the award winning BBC series "Downton Abbey".  It is about the workings and caste system among the two dozen or so servants and a half dozen or so residents of a castle in the early twentieth century.  My daughters, of course, are interested in the forbidden love requited and infrequent life that occasionally breaks free despite all the contrivances.  To sit alongside them as they watch gives me the opportunity to enter into their worlds a bit and understand their hearts a little better.  I feel like I am getting a little better "read" on their tendencies.  (I am probably at about 5%, but I have a push goal of 7% by the end of the year.)
The most intriguing aspect for me is when someone actually breaks rank.  When someone of stature reaches below theirs or when one without reaches for something much more.  At a time when roles were so set and the path of life was so predetermined generationally, it was incredibly disruptive for someone to step out of line.  I don't think my girls are equally motivated to understand me better, but if they were, they would see that these are the parts that particularly grab my attention.
Art imitates life.  A pastor tells a congregation there is something more, a business owner paints grander intentions for their team members, and a small cadre of men beckon a group of 40 or so men to exit the matrix and find the inspired life of God's intentions.  The response is often a blank stare.  The heart races and while there is often hope upon hope inside, we are so beaten down and have long quit believing that there is something more.  To rise up from the pew, to buy into the expectation of more from our vocational life, or actually break ranks from the mass of men (living lives of quiet desperation), is uncommon.
The only problem with all that is that we are cut from the cloth of one who came to turn the tables over and destroy the established order of humanity.  To heal and restore…break the predeterminations of men and the brokenness born by prior behavior…to break rank and lead us all on a new path.  We all must reconcile ourselves to the fact that there is so much more and we were created for it…to not find it is to the walk in the grand unfulfillment of a glorious life intended, but not found.
What happens when a man actually begins to believe?  Like Neo against the agents, we begin to take on the fights we formerly ran from, we rise up against the injustice we find, and we steadfastly refuse to live a life so ordinary.  Donald Miller says, "“And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can't go back to being normal; you can't go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”
So we can take a man and paint him up with tips and techniques, shackle him with duty and obligation, or maybe, just maybe, we can get him to believe that he was created for something grander and particular.  That God meant something when He meant him.  Now that kind of freedom and intentionality is something to behold…transformation that begets transformation.  The unshackling of a man toward God's greater purpose, finding his role in the larger story, is a glorious thing to behold.

Zoo

I was raised by television.  Without much in the way of parenting, no sense of a home life, and very little image of a traditional family should look like, the lines between my reality and the lives of the Cleavers, Bradys, and even Munsters blurred.  I remember one time how I fondly reflected on a trip to Hawaii with my family only to realize that it was the Bradys that went there and not the Schrollers. The benefit of this was that I started to find life, meaning, and story in the media I was processing life through.  More than most I suppose, I tend to find imagery, clarity, and significance in the handiwork of the "giants of culture", film makers.  It can get real "noisy" trying to watch a movie when story, significance, and application are jumping off the screen.  I am often brought to tears by stuff I view that doesn't really seem to resonate with anyone else.  Upon further inspection, however, deep meaning for me is found in the story.

I saw a trailer to a movie "We Bought a Zoo" last Fall:

We Bought A Zoo Trailer

So, what does the trailer say?

ATTEMPT TO START OVER

BE UNPREDICTABLE

DO SOMETHING CRAZY

EMBRACE YOUR WILD SIDE

How could that not lure you into the theatre?  My wife, our three eldest kids, and I, all went to see it opening weekend during the holidays.  All of us were brought to tears and I couldn't have told your completely why. (Okay, I am a geek about these things, I had a pretty good idea why.)  But upon further inspection, it became glaringly clear.

Benjamin Mee is trapped.  A recent tragedy has him paralyzed and he is way over his head trying to be both a mom and dad to his young daughter and teenage son...especially his teenage son.  They are all in a rut and the sadness of his son has started to manifest itself in some pretty dark ways.  Benjamin is walking dead and desperately needs something to shake his slumber.  That is where the zoo comes in.

Now, I might be a bit jaded, but I feel like we are living life fairly alive.  Compared to the crawl we lived in a few years ago, it looks a lot more like warp speed.  My wife and I happened to get several viewings of this movie on an Ipad and some extensive plane flights recently.  Within about three days last week, she texted and told me two things:

"Life can't look like this a year from now."

"Praying for what our zoo is."

I have a core desire for adventure and between the wild ride of my business as ministry adventure and the manifestation of men's ministry in my life, both one on one and in leading men's weekends, I am pretty much finding it.  She is obviously not.  The good news is that one of her core desires isn't "adventure".  The bad news is that one of her core desires is "to have an irreplaceable role in my adventure".

It would be far easier to burden her with figuring her own deal out, but this actually requires something of me.  It calls my headship of the family and our marriage into question.  I need to chart adventure for her and my kids and invite them up into a larger story imperative for their lives.  My adventures need to be crafted in such a way as to woo her into them.

My wife is praying for our "zoo" and so am I.  I am going to find what it is.  The same Father who set those core desires in each of us, the Author of our lives, desperately wants us to know what that is as well.  We simply need to be still and quiet enough to hear and then have the courage to follow the opportunity He visions for us.

 

 

(Need some additional clarity on this issue?  Read Ch. 9, 'How Jason Saved His Family" of Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years")

 

 

Intoxicated

I was a weak and unfocused man.  I was subject to less wild lovers of every variety.  My heart and mind were not captivated by my wife, my kids, my work, or even, if I am completely honest, by my God.  I wanted relief and if my wife, kids, coworkers, and God would simply do what I wanted them to do, I might be able to find some peace.  My increasing disenchantment with all the above was creating fissures on every part of me and my life. "Oh great God give us rest We're all worn thin from all of this At the end of our hope with nothing left Oh great God give us rest"   David Crowder

With a marriage approaching failure and all I had hoped from life hanging in the balance, I shook my fists at the heavens and cried out to God.  He answered.  He comforted me.  But he didn't commiserate with me or affirm how awful everyone and everything was in my life.  He wooed me into a deeper knowledge of Him and showed me all the things I was seeking identity from would never requite.  When He became my source...the object of my desire, gardens began to bloom in every corner of my life.

Work transformed from effortless drudgery to missional and purposeful engagement of many men.  The frustration of parenting became the promise of endless possibilities...each child an arrow of privilege to launch into a fallen world.  And my wife...baby, oh baby.  Where I once found her frustrating, crushed her under the weight of unrealistic expectation, and saddled her with my ridiculous need for validation, she transformed before my eyes.

She was finally free of the unnecessary and crushing weight of me.  The veil that shrouded her beauty, was removed.  She is now the most captivating and alluring creature I have ever known.  I am intoxicated by her.  I am dizzied and light-headed by the sight, smell, feel, and taste of her.

"I've got a girl she tastes like rain on my tounge She's got the moon in her hips And her eyes burn up like the sun When I'm gone from my girl When I leave her alone There ain't nothing that I'm running from"  Fiction Family

The Kingdom.  The garden.  The everlasting promises of God and the glory of eternity.  They are at hand.  I need to look no further than the beauty that lays beside me in my bed.  She is as she always was.  As she was always intended to be.  She is the very hope and promise of God's great love for me.  She is glorious and I am undone.

 

 

 

Wound(ed)

I was hanging with one of my mates the other night.  He mentioned that an extended visit from his retired parents was providing him a lot of fresh material around the idea of his wounding.  It happens with each visit, but they are his parents, what is he gonna do? The reality is that all of us make choices that inexplicably put us back in the crosshairs of our wounding story...we inadvertently tee up a brutal and determined enemy.  My wife says that I sometimes become a different person around my family.  Instead of confident, cocksure, healed and whole, I am petty, irritated and easily sucked into superfluous battleground.  For many of us, revisiting family, the mouth waters of our wounding, is a journey into arrested development.  We become that little boy again.

Even out of the brutality of childhood, we seek the familiar:

  • The physically abused girl marries an abuser
  • The boy with a super controlling father finds a boss just like him
  • The boy with an overbearing mom, marries the same
  • A sexually abused girl falls into promiscuity

Logic would dictate a completely different response, but these are matters and decisions of the heart...the source of either glorious things as whole and healed, or tragic as broken and in disrepair.  And the most brutal thing of all, our heart is the core of our being, our identity.  Without healing, the wound transforms from the thing that happened to us into the thing that we are.  We embrace it and make it the hallmark of our life.

There is some family that I rarely see anymore.  There are some friends I quit calling back.  There are organizations and affiliations I walked away from.  My associations are going to either drive me toward more healing, freedom, and missional living, or remind me that I was once a little boy whose heart wasn't handled very well...and drive me back into that reality.

I fully embrace the fullness of Jesus healing and restoration ministry.  I take on and try to live fully into the new heart and identity I have been given.  I have walked quite a bit of the hard journey it takes to remember and restore.  I am no longer that boy. Through the discernment of the Spirit, I am going to do everything I know to do...to hold fast of all that He accomplished for me.  I want citizenship in the new covenant.

 

 

 

Opposed

My new measure for value of anything is directly related to how much it is opposed.  For example....

  • Sit in front of the TV watching a 3 hour game....easy.  Walk across the house to engage my teenage daughter in a relevant conversation...hard.
  • Meet a friend for lunch and talk about the NCAA tournament, his business, or politics...easy.  Ask him how his marriage, his walk with Jesus, or his struggling college son is doing...hard.
  • Asking my wife what she did that day...easy.  Ask her how she is feeling about her life...terrifying.
  • Cutting a check for a ministry need I heard about...easy.  Going to the third world to live their life and serve on a mission trip...hard.
  • Talking to a Christian friend about the pastor's sermon...easy.  Talking to someone I don't know about the life change possible...nearly impossible.

I sat in what some would consider a very large chair in the halls of corporate American.  There were lots of zeroes attached to the work and it mattered a lot in the overall scheme of things, but it was very easy...required very little of me.  I left to manage a company whose annual earnings are 1/1000 of the size of the investable assets I managed...it is incredibly hard and challenging.

The first was a J-O-B and the second is a cautious inch into significance.  While it may appear to be a step back or a step down, it is exactly the opposite.  It is stepping up in the larger story of God to take an assignment that He uniquely created me and called me to.  It has been terrifying at times, but more rewarding than I could have possibly managed.

Every step has been a progression in a long journey....a measured segment in a Mapquest multi-city trip.  From the couch to the arena to the colosseum floor.  From unknown to probable to very, very real.  A man gets asked in "Fight Club"..."Is that your blood?"  Answer?  "Yeah, some of it.".  It can feel painful and costly at times, but mostly glorious and intended.  So what if you get wounded and bloodied...lose a few pints...there is plenty more where that came from.

Even in life, the desperate quest for significance is opposed.  My wife and I plan some time downtown to reconnect and remember.  I have grand plans for updating our long-term vision for our family, to have a romantic dinner, and twist the sheets up...result?...disaster.  It was DOA...not really prayed up, but exhaustively thought through...full of the unreasonable expectation and the hope of decades.  It will be much harder to mount an initiative toward another one of those, but it will happen.  Again, I am bloodied, but unbowed.  I will, because though it is opposed, it is worth it.  As comfortable as it is from the couch or a seat up high in the colosseum, the arena floor is extraordinary.

Invalidate

After many months of prayer, discernment, and wise counsel, we were left with a very clear decision; it was time for our family to leave the church.  It took a while to get there:

  • The new pastor was hired by a committee on which I had spent almost an entire year.
  • I was involved in most major committees of the church.
  • The Sunday school class I led was a large vibrant presence on the campus.
  • The new pastor had taken into his confidence and took me “behind the curtain” with issues the church was experiencing.

But I knew as clearly as I had ever known anything, it was time to go.

I met the pastor for a breakfast to let him know the arduous and God-breathed adventure I had been on to get me to this decision.  I felt the inspiration and increasing courage of a man who was seeking his Father and leading his family in the way he believed he should go.  It did not go well.  I think he felt hurt and abandoned.  He essentially said:

  • the leadership of my family was misguided
  • I wasn’t much of a leader
  • I was simply running from my problems.

To sit before a man I had respected and whose authority I had submitted to and hear that kind of response, would have crumbled me just a few years prior.  But the sweetness and clarity of my Father’s validation crowded out all others. Instead of shame and anger, I felt sorry for him.  He didn’t really even know me and it was unlikely, given the situation I was putting him in, that he could do anything but judge me in that way.  He is good man and he is clearly not a “swine”, but it was very much like the caution in Matthew 7:6.  It was not wise for my to cast my pearls so transparently in front of him.  It would have been very difficult for him to receive them.  Even after all these years, I recall it like it was yesterday.  In many ways, it was a turning point in my life.

Recently, my son had to have a crucial conversation with a ministry head.  He and I talked quite a while about this experience of mine and what I felt like God was speaking through it.  Our Father is our only true validation.  He is the one we turn to for the ultimate confirmation of who we are as men.  All needs to line up with the plumb of scripture and wise counsel should confirm, but only He can validate.  Anything or anyone you give the ability to validate, you give the ability to invalidate as well.  That right should rest only with our Father in heaven.

Sadly, the head of the ministry did not receive it well, but son was operating from the clarity and conviction that only comes from the Father's validation.  He felt like his Father had spoken; he had prayed, fasted, and sought the wise counsel of many.  I even had the privilege of spending some of the experiential currency I had earned from the challenging journey of my life.  So, my boy was disappointed, but not discouraged.  No foothold for the enemy here.  Ground taken, ground held.

May we all seek and find the only true validation...the only one that is powerful enough to silence all the whispers of our enemy.